We are constantly being asked around The Busy Mom how we get “it” all done. Well first, we don’t, no matter how you define “it.” I am in a season where I have little margin and I have to choose to use every minute wisely. When I don’t, my house is what pays the price. Now I’m not setting expectations of having a spotless or sterile environment – believe me, I’m not shooting for the stars! I’m talking about a healthy, clean living environment, stewarding well what I have to manage. I wish I could say this busy-bess would end soon, but it likely won’t, so I have to apply a few tips to keep my sanity and manage my home well. I have given up on getting it all done, but there are a few things I do at my house to keep it livable!
Own less stuff.
Truly, go through and relentlessly purge your belongings (or schedule or responsibilities). This is the best first step. The less you have, the less there is to manage. And if you are frustrated that you can’t keep a reasonably clean house, that just may mean that you have too much to manage in your current set of circumstances. Right? If you could manage it, you wouldn’t be reading this!
You may have too much stuff to manage, or just too much stuff to manage with 3 small kids and a part time job, or just too much stuff to manage with a traveling soccer schedule, or just too much stuff to manage with a husband who works 65 hours a week, or too much stuff to manage with a chronic health problem, etc. If you truly can’t get it done, there’s too much “stuff” of some sort. I’m not criticizing any of those things, just pointing out that your set of circumstances is the reality in which you need to function well. I homeschool two kids, work part time and have a husband who has long work hours and chronic health problems, meaning he has little left to offer in the cooking and cleaning department. That is my reality, and I have determined what I needed to do to live well in it. But I can assure you, if you just have more belongings than your space will allow, it’s time to pack stuff up and move it out.
Make a list and post it.
Waking up with an expectation of what is to be done will set your mind in that direction first thing as opposed to waiting until you think about it. If you’re like me, I don’t think about it until I’m dragging already and that never works out well! Or worse, busy days go by and I don’t think about it at all. But if I have a list and stick to it, then when something comes up one day that prevents me from accomplishing whatever is on the list for that day, it doesn’t matter because I’m generally on track and can miss a day here and there.
When I’m successful, it’s because I make a list of what needs to be done weekly (like bathrooms, floors, etc.) and divide the list into chores assigned to certain days, adjusting for seasonal sports, Bible study and homeschool coop schedules. Then I purpose to obey my schedule because I’m a nerd and things like that work for me. I have no need to waste my limited brain power reinventing the list every day and no need to spend money on a beautiful notebook in which to write the same things over and over. Type it up, print it off and tape it to the frig. or put it on your bulletin board.
Use your non homeschooling or non working days to catch up.
If I spend some chunks on Saturdays or Sunday afternoons cleaning, I can rest during the week when I’m trying to work around schooling the kids. Using those weekend “rest” days to manage my house actually allows me to better handle the busier weekdays, so my general level of rest is much more consistent as it is spread a bit over each day. Since Jesus isn’t legalistic, I think this is okay with Him. If I use 60 minutes on Sunday cleaning, then I have ten minutes 6 other days to spend in the word, so my day of rest is spent “resting” with Him in the season in which He has placed me using my time to manage my home well.
Streamline your system.
It takes time to get cleaning supplies out and put them away. Wrapping up the vacuum cord and kicking stuff out of the way to get it in the hall closet takes a few minutes each time. Eliminate chore transitions to save time. Clean all the bathrooms on the same day while you have the supplies out, vacuum everything on the same day to eliminate that take-out and put-away time, round up all the sheets to wash and grab your hubby or child to help you put them all back on at the same time.
Work yourself out of a job.
Most children are much more capable than we give them credit for. Look at your chore list and turn chores over to them. Kids should be doing all that they are capable of doing! They don’t learn anything responsible by creating the tornado with no obligation to help clean it up.
Just do it.
Don’t spend ten minutes every hour killing time on your phone or computer. (Yes, I’m talking to myself!) That can add up to 2 entire hours of lost productivity over the course of a day! When you’re tempted to sit down and veg, make the choice to keep moving. You can sit now or you can sit once the kids go to bed, but if you are a homeschooling mom and want to stay on top of your house, chances are good you can’t sit both times.
Know the difference between clean and picked up, and set your expectations wisely.
“Clean” means I’ve vacuumed, wiped, scrubbed or sprayed something. “Picked up” means all things are put in their place. I have children. I don’t strive for “picked up” constantly, or maybe ever. I don’t believe it’s realistic in a homeschooling home.
I regularly push toys out of the way with the running vacuum cleaner, because legos or hot wheels look a whole lot nicer on my floor when they’re not mixed with dust bunnies! A pile of mail doesn’t seem nearly as offensive when the counter on which it sits isn’t scattered with bread crumbs. Socks, shoes, flashlights and all manner of random child paraphernalia on the side of my staircase are much less bothersome when the stairs are freshly vacuumed. That’s the difference between clean and picked up. My goal is clean. I gave up on picked up as soon as my second tornado child could move. I’ll raise my bar when she moves out.
If keeping up with your house is a struggle for you, I’d encourage you to pick just one of these and start today. I need to get my list updated for this new season and get it on the frig. Which of these is the most applicable for you today? Let’s start together!